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Joint statements of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the joint press conference (Ankara, 12 May 2015)
M. ÇAVUŞOĞLU: We have a very important visitor who we are hosting in Ankara today: the Greek Foreign Minister, my dear friend, Nikos Kotzias. It is a great pleasure and joy to have him here in Ankara. It is the first official visit since the elections in Greece, and it is the first official meeting since the elections.
In previous meetings on the international level, I had the opportunity to meet with my dear friend, but this official visit gave us the opportunity, in a sincere environment, to share our views on international and bilateral issues, and I thank him very much for this.
Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Mr. Davutoglu, received my dear friend Mr. Kotzias in Istanbul, and today he will be received by the President of the Republic, and then we will go together to the Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, in Antalya. And there it will be my great pleasure – and I want to take this opportunity to say this – to host him in Antalya.
In our one-on-one meeting and in the meeting between the two delegations, we agreed on the development of the potential for cooperation between us. We saw that there is a positive convergence between us regarding the resolution of our problems. As Turkey, our main wish is for the peoples of the countries to come closer together, for the development of the relations between the two countries, and for the Aegean Sea to be transformed into a sea of peace.
During our talks today, we also discussed the measures that can be taken within the framework of the confidence-building measures, to avert undesirable accidents deriving from military activities in the Aegean. We agreed on confidence-building measures. We will continue to work for additional confidence-building measures. And we will also continue our efforts to find solutions to the problems between the two countries within the framework of the dialogue mechanisms that exist.
I would like to highlight that we have full political will on this issue. And with the support of the new Greek government, we want to ensure positive results. In this sense, we also decided to continue the exploratory talks. We will continue these talks from where they stopped. We want to promote our relations with Greece based on the positive agenda.
We see the specific results of the climate of dialogue and cooperation we created, with joint efforts in sectors such as economy, trade, tourism, transport and energy. More specifically, I would like to say that, in this sense, the High-Level Cooperation Council between us contributed to this. Together we will oversee the decisions and agreements we signed in the context of the meetings of the High-Level Cooperation Council.
It is our firm will to increase the volume of trade between us to the level of $10 billion, and we will work together on this issue. Of late, we have observed a mutual increase in the number of tourists visiting the two countries, especially following the facilitations Greece secured for visas, and the number of Turkish tourists travelling to the islands increased. While the number of Turkish citizens visiting Greece surpassed one million, the number of Greek tourists visiting Turkey has reached about 700,000. We want to increase this number even more, and we see that all of these developments are having a very positive impact on the relations between our two peoples.
We want to further strengthen infrastructure – transport in particular. We are pursuing and increase in the number of commercial flights, and beyond that there is a plan for high-speed passenger trains between Istanbul and Thessaloniki. We discussed this issue recently, during the meeting we had in Athens. And we also need to increase potential in the sector of maritime transport between Greece and Izmir.
Between Greece and Turkey there is a prevailing common will with regard to the resolution of the Cyprus issue. We are very pleased at the fact that the negotiations will reopen on 15 May. As Turkey and Greece, we are determined to encourage the two leaders and the two sides on the island. We should help them. We have more determination than at any other time regarding the finding of a solution and the continuation of the negotiations within the framework of a federal system that will be formed by the two constituent states, based on the 11 February 2014 joint communiqué of the two leaders and the two sides on the island. There was a mistaken impression from a speech I made on television, and the phrase I used was misconstrued.
If there is the same determination on both the “Greek Cypriot section” and in Greece, a solution can be found for a permanent peace, and we will reach a solution within the current year. Our greatest desire is for a result to be achieved, and we don’t want this opportunity to be missed.
We will continue to discuss all of our problems with Greece, with the Aegean topping the agenda, in a climate of sincerity, and we will continue to take steps for the confidence-building measures. I also want to note that we are determined with regard to the resolution of the existing problems, without their leading to any tension. With these words, I once again welcome my very good friend Nikos, and I give him the floor.
N. KOTZIAS: I thank you for the invitation to beautiful Ankara, which has changed in the 16 years since I was last here, and I also thank you for the meeting I had with Prime Minister Davutoglu and the meeting I will have this afternoon with President Erdogan.
We accepted the invitation for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit Turkey, and we await Foreign Minister Cavusoglu any day he wants to come. You and Mr. Davutoglu are always welcome in Athens and on the many beautiful Greek islands.
I am here as a friend who has work for over 25 years on the development of Greek-Turkish relations based on friendship and international law. I always appreciate and want to have sincere conversations that contribute to the development of the friendship between our two countries and our two peoples.
But I would like to thank and congratulate the Minister personally, because tonight we will be in his birthplace, Antalya, for the Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. And I am certain that it will be organized exceptionally well, as was my visit.
All of the journalists – Greeks and international – are aware of the concerns I have expressed for some months now regarding the destabilization of the Eastern Mediterranean, which is within a triangle, as I always say, formed by Ukraine, Libya, the Middle East. Greece and Turkey are two factors for stability within this region, and we exchanged initial thoughts on how we might institutionalize this potential we have.
We agreed to reopen the exploratory talks, which concern the continental shelf in the Aegean, and to continue the discussion on confidence-building measures, on which I would say we have already had some success. And I thank the Greek side, Greek diplomacy, which worked hard on this, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry. We have already agreed on and announced confidence-building measures for maritime safety, which include 9 technical aspects that we won’t go into in a press conference.
It is our shared desire to resolve the problems in the Aegean, to resolve the issues in the Aegean, and to reduce tensions and disputes regarding the character of a number of regions.
We also want to resolve the Cyprus issue. This is an opportunity. A window of opportunity, as the American’s say. We believe that the rights of the communities – of the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriots and the small minorities on the island – must be safeguarded and that Cyprus must be restored as an independent and sovereign state that is a member of the European Union, with friendly relations with everyone, and above all with Turkey and Greece. A Cyprus without guarantor powers and with a secure future and sense that the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are Cypriot friends of Greece and Turkey.
I also want to say from this platform that we support Turkey’s European course. The course we initiated in the fall of 1999, in Tampere, and made official in Helsinki, in 1999. Greece has no reservations – no ‘yes, buts’ – regarding Turkey’s European future. We want a Turkey that will adopt all of the rules and requirements of the European Union. And we want a European Union that recognizes the Turkish people’s wealth of culture, traditions, inspiration, perceptiveness, and political thought.
We also talked about the need for us to develop our cooperation further in a number of sectors. In particular, in combating illegal migration, which is not the fault of the souls who risk their lives on the seas between Europe and North Africa and the Middle East, but of the harsh social problems and wars in their region, and of course the criminal rings that have built one of the largest global businesses on human trafficking. And we agreed that our Home Affairs and Justice Ministers need to collaborate on ways to confront this problem and also formulate very strict legislation on this issue.
Moreover, a committee will reexamine and monitor the progress of all the agreements made at the Government-to-Government meetings. We are thinking of setting up a technical team to further our economic relations. Infrastructure networks, economic relations and cooperation are the foundation for ensuring stability and peace in the region – not just between Greece and Turkey, but also throughout the Balkans.
I study Turkish politics carefully, and I have ascertained that, like us, Turkey does not want to exclude anyone from cooperation initiatives. And I say this with reference to the Balkans.
I think that by promoting solutions in the Aegean and on the Cyprus issue, we will unleash positive winds of change, impart momentum to Greek-Turkish relations, and make our countries’ role in the region and beyond even more important.
I thank you for the very, very good, positive and friendly climate in all of our talks. My sense was that this is an exceptional climate of friendly good will for us to find substantial solutions, and, once again, a thousand thanks for your hospitality yesterday and today.
JOURNALIST: [Question regarding Cyprus.]
M. ÇAVUŞOĞLU: Thank you very much. First of all, the fact that the negotiations are reopening in Cyprus, as well as the meeting between the two leaders at yesterday’s dinner, is an important development. The negotiations will start again on 15 May, and today we all have reason to be more optimistic. The 11 February 2014 joint communiqué was the basis for the negotiations, and everyone accepts that, including Mr. Anastasiades and, now, the new leader in the North, Mustafa Akinci.
Within the framework of the joint communiqué, the negotiations can continue. Some convergence has been achieved to date, but there are issues that weren’t discussed in the negotiations and on which there was no convergence. For this reason, negotiations will have to be held more frequently, with the two leaders meeting more frequently. In both Turkey and the “TRNC” there is complete agreement and determination regarding the reopening of the negotiations and the finding of a solution. As you also know, the newly elected leader in the North, “President” Mustafa Akinci, shares this determination, and there is also a consensus on the island. Mr. Anastasiades’ return to the negotiating table shows that this determination also exists in the “Greek section” and on the part of Mr. Anastasiades himself.
Turkey and Greece are giving their full support. The international community is also giving its full support, and this opportunity must be seized. Our greatest desire is for there to be convergence and agreement on the other issues as well. Our support, as the Turkish Republic, will continue, as always and more than on any other occasion, for the finding of a solution. Our desire is that specific results arise from the talks between the two leaders. This opportunity within 2015 should not be lost.
N. KOTZIAS: The Greek government has held extensive talks twice with the Cypriot government on this issue. My good friend President Anastasiades was also in Athens recently.
The Greek government supports in every way and wants to facilitate the negotiations being carried out by the Cypriot government. We want the Cyprus issue to be resolved, but to be resolved the right way. We don’t want anyone to impose or exert pressure, from the outside, on the negotiations being carried out in Cyprus. And Mr. Akinci’s election is a good opportunity. I believe that he is a person who still has elements of what we used to call the “Cypriot conscience”. We want to find ways and talk about how we can help and facilitate these negotiations. The resolution of the Cyprus issue will free up many forces in the region.
Mr. Tsipras has been invited by the Turkish government. The sense I have is that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Davutoglu, and the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Tsipras, have what we call good chemistry. They are young and think creatively, and they comprehend the international environment and the interests of the two states.
That is why Mr. Tsipras will come to Turkey, with great pleasure, to talk about all the issues that require promotion and understanding. What is important in international relations is to resolve problems. But it is equally important, in order to reach the solution to problems, to create an atmosphere of trust. And a sense of security: that we mean what we say. A first major step was my meeting today with my colleague the Minister, and I thank him.
I think that the trust we felt – that we can have in one another, that we speak sincerely and seriously about all the issues, and with the responsibility we have for our countries – this trust was a major step toward the future, forward. I think that Mr. Tsipras’ visit will be an even bigger step. And if I may say so, because I don’t belong to any political party in Greece, the two countries are fortunate to have these Prime Ministers. Open to new things and to the needs of the 21st century. The problems exist, and we have to fight to resolve them. I hope we resolve as many as possible.
JOURNALIST: [Question on the DHKP-C and the release of Xeros.]
N. KOTZIAS: I want to express my support for the Turkish people with regard to the loss, yesterday, of another Turkish citizen. And we are always at Turkey’s disposal if we can help with something. And I want to say that I agree with the formation of a government of national unity in Libya, as expressed by my colleague the Minister. It’s just that we who belong to Western institutions have to ask ourselves whether, throughout these recent years, everything was done well in our region. And whether we were timely in thinking of the solutions that we have to have ready for every action we take.
Now, your question. As you know, I come from the Left. As a young man I enlisted in the fight against the Junta and fascism. We had a military dictatorship in Greece from 1967 to 1974. In 1967 I wrote my first article, in the banned press. That was a long time ago. And it was against terrorism. The first text I wrote in my life. Published text. If only in a paper that was banned. I feel great hostility towards terrorism.
And I want to take this opportunity to express my sadness at every human life lost to terrorism, and specifically the Turkish diplomats who lost their lives in Greece. I asked my colleague the Minister to once again express to the families of the victims our support and solidarity with their pain, which one never gets over.
Now, with regard to the specific law. The law is a product of a legislative process that took into account 11 ECHR rulings against Greece. It is a law that reflects the decisions of the European courts. This is its framework. But because this law might give a terrorist certain opportunities, as you ask, the law includes strict provisions. First, the prisoner must make an application. Second, he has to go before a medical committee that will decide whether he in fact comes under the disabilities stipulated in the law. Xeros has 98% disability. He is blind. And he has multiple sclerosis. Third, he has to apply to the court that convicted him in order to move around. Fourth, if the court gives its permission, he is moved under strict supervision and with limited potential for communication, with an electronic bracelet.
I was asked about this by Western friends, and I don’t foresee Xeros’ making use of this law. I told them this responsibly. The day before yesterday, he refused to apply. So that’s where we stand. He hasn’t applied and he has no intention of making use of a law that he sees as limiting freedoms. And I want to make an observation. I will say it publicly. It doesn’t concern the country where I am – it concerns other countries.
When I was teaching at Harvard University, from 2000 to 2002, Antonio Negri – the leader of the Red Brigades -- published a book, and he taught in a classroom next to mine. He wasn’t disabled and he wasn’t wearing an electronic bracelet. What’s more, terrorists who are participating in jihadism have been released from Guantanamo. Without electronic bracelets, of course, and with no health issues. Meanwhile, we have a very ill terrorist who, due to the strict conditions we have stipulated, is not asking to make use of the law, which is proof that the law was not designed for him. And many of our Western friends who are criticizing us harshly acted more leniently in similar cases. I say this in all courtesy.